Learn how an amnesia episode led him to raise community awareness for Transient Global Amnesia.
John O’Flynn went to an early morning fitness class in January but he cannot remember being there. When he arrived home after the class, his short-term memory was gone. He knew who his wife was but he had no recollection of what he had done or where he had been that morning. He also was unable to retain new information and kept asking his wife the same questions over and over again.
Transient Global Amnesia
John’s family quickly took him to the hospital where the doctors, after ruling out other causes, diagnosed him with transient global amnesia – a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss that cannot be attributed to a more common neurological condition, such as epilepsy or stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic, “During an episode of transient global amnesia, your recall of recent events simply vanishes, so you can't remember where you are or how you got there. In addition, you may not remember anything about what's happening in the here and now. Consequently, you may keep repeating the same questions because you don't remember the answers you've just been given. You may also draw a blank when asked to remember things that happened a day, a month or even a year ago.“
“Fortunately, transient global amnesia is rare, seemingly harmless and unlikely to happen again. Episodes are usually short-lived (less than 24 hours), and afterward your memory is fine. Seek immediate medical attention for anyone who quickly goes from normal awareness of present reality to confusion about what just happened. If the person experiencing memory loss is too disoriented to call an ambulance, call one yourself. ” Read more about transient global amnesia on the Mayo Clinic’s Website.
Reclaiming His Memory
By the next day, John’s short term memory had returned and he was well on his way to a full recovery. However, he wanted to fill in his lost memories and find out what he had done the morning before. So he got in touch with NVRC staff and they were able to tell him that he did in fact scan his fitness membership that morning at Delbrook Community Recreation Centre. He was then put in touch with the fitness instructor from the class who told him he had been in the class and worked out strenuously. (Note: There are no proven causes of transient global amnesia but some medical professionals believe strenuous exercise can be a trigger.*) John was so grateful that the NVRC staff and instructor were able to help him piece together his missing memory of that morning.
Sharing his Story
John jumped at the chance to tell his story about transient global amnesia in order to raise awareness in the community about this really rare condition. He said, “The more people know about the various types of brain impairment, the better they will be able to respond to someone who exhibits signs of disorientation.” As for John, he said it was a “humbling experience” and he gained greater insight to what his late father must have faced when suffering with the loss of memory brought on by Alzheimer’s.
More about John
John is passionate about physical fitness and sport. He is a teacher in the independent school system and very committed to raising active, responsible boys. He’s also active in community sport and recently started a new job as the Director of Club Operations with the North Vancouver Football Club (NVFC). For his own workouts, he’s been a fitness member with NVRC since moving to the Delbrook area in 2017. In addition to taking part in fitness and yoga classes at Delbrook Community Recreation Centre, he can often be found working out with his son in the fitness centre. John appreciates the social connections he’s made at the centre and said, “Everyone works out within their abilities, striving towards their personal best. There’s a great community feel here.”
Six weeks after his challenging experience with transient global amnesia, John is doing better than ever and he’s even more committed to maintaining his health and wellness through exercise. Thanks for sharing your story John!
* NOTE: It is recommended that individuals consult their doctor prior to starting a new exercise program. Individuals 15 – 69 years old are asked to review the PAR-Q questionnaire posted in all NVRC fitness centres. The PAR-Q is a self-administered (do it yourself) questionnaire. It is designed to assess your readiness to participate in more physical activity or engage in a fitness appraisal. You should complete this form before starting a new physical activity program (such as swimming lessons and joining a new gym program) or completing a fitness appraisal.
Anyone feeling unwell in a NVRC fitness class, program or in the fitness centre is encouraged to let staff know so that they can respond appropriately and call for medical assistance if needed.